Classics Revisited: Ben’s Chili Bowl

The restaurant world is notoriously fickle, but these15 places—all a half century old or more—have withstood the test of time.
One of the few quiet moments at Ben’s, which is packed in the morning and late into the night.
Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, and President Obama have all eaten at Ben’s Chili Bowl.
Photograph by Scott Suchman.
One of the few quiet moments at Ben’s, which is packed in the morning and late into the night. Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, and President Obama have all eaten at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

If you’re young and relatively new to town, you probably know this U Street legend as the place to go when the show’s over and/or you’ve had too much to drink. If you go back a ways, then you probably think of it fondly as the Place That Survived the ’68 Riots. Either way, you come for one thing and one thing only: a thickly cased half-smoke (bigger than a hot dog, and spicier) lathered with chili and onions, with a side of fries.

DC is a city of deep divides, but walk into Ben’s and you’re tempted to think that the possibility of unification isn’t a pipe dream, just something that hasn’t been fought for quite hard enough. Black and white, young and old, arriviste and longtimer—they’re all here under one tiny roof.

Open Monday through Saturday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; Sunday for lunch and dinner (open weekends until 4 am).

More Classic Restaurants ››

Most Popular

More from Food